Minister provides overview of 2004 tourism season
Tourism, Culture and Recreation Minister Paul Shelley today provided an overview of the 2004 tourism season based on activity to the end of August 2004. Despite a soft start and a mixed picture in the provinceís regions, Newfoundland and Labrador is on track for an improved tourism season overall in 2004, as compared to 2003, when non-resident visitors and expenditures were on par with tourism growth in 2002.
"The tourism industry across the country has not seen tourism rebound as strongly as expected from the direct impacts of past global events. While the impacts have lessened, research indicates that consumer enthusiasm for travel remains subdued both in the U.S. and Canada," said Minister Shelley. "Despite this national trend, Newfoundland and Labrador has continued to hold its own this year. We recognize there are challenges in the industry but overall we remain optimistic that the province is becoming increasingly more known to tourists as a unique and compelling destination."
A number of factors may be dampening the enthusiasm of discretionary travellers including the high value of the Canadian dollar, economic and business cycles, escalating gas prices, transportation costs, border security/border waits, the changing habits of consumers, the U.S. election and the weather. These are national trends and not restricted to this province alone.
The province continues to benefit from a record increase in air passenger movements in 2004. Airport passenger movements at the provinceís seven major airports increased by 13 per cent during the months of January to August 2004, compared to the same period in 2003. Direct international arrivals at St. Johnís airport increased 10 per cent during the months of January to May 2004, compared to the same period in 2003.
This has been a record year for both the cruise industry and conventions market. The cruise industry in 2004 is reporting nearly double the number of visits in 2003. Approximately 147 port calls are scheduled for 2004, compared to 77 calls in 2003. Approximately 35,816 passenger visits are expected by cruise, compared to 20,351 in 2003. The conventions market has experienced a 40 per cent increase in 2004.
While the province experienced an increase in air visitors, overall passenger traffic on the Marine Atlantic ferry system decreased by nine per cent covering the period from January to August, compared to the same period in 2003, while vehicle traffic decreased 10 per cent. Non-resident automobile visits on the ferry also decreased during that period by a total of 11 per cent, while residents travelling outside the province via Marine Atlantic decreased seven per cent. Exiting bus traffic on the ferry increased six per cent between May and August 2004, compared to the same period in 2003.
Newfoundland and Labradorís regions are reporting more mixed results than indicated by the overall picture for the province. Areas of the province that rely more heavily on auto traffic have experienced challenges while other areas are benefited from record air traffic, cruise and conventions. Declining auto visits are also reflected in lower visitation at Newfoundland and Labradorís historic sites, museums, visitor information centres (VICs) and public and commercial campgrounds.
Stan Cook Jr., president of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, the provinceís tourism industry association, said: "We are pleased to see that there is an increase in inquiries, however, we are concerned that there is a decrease in passenger and vehicle traffic on the Marine Atlantic service. We need to continue to address this important issue. Vehicle traffic is very important to our industry as those visitors spread throughout the province bringing business to all regions."
Minister Shelley said that, on a positive note, interest in the province as a tourism destination remains strong. Inquiries to the provinceís 1-800 number and Web site have increased by five per cent to the end of August as compared to last year.
Judy Sparkes-Giannou, chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Marketing Council said: "An increase in tourism inquiries demonstrates that the province is recognized as an attractive destination, which reflects on the provinceís continued efforts to market the destination."
Minister Shelley said government recognizes the importance of marketing the province for the long term and that through consistent marketing efforts, the province will continue to grow its share of non-resident visitors and spending.
Minister Shelley cautioned that the mid-season overview is an evolving picture. "While we remain optimistic that we will experience an increase in total visitation to the province this year, the total picture will not be available until the end of the calendar year," said Minister Shelley. "Our air and auto survey of visitors, combined with all relevant statistics, will give a more complete perspective of the tourism season by year end."
Media contact: Tansy Mundon, Communications, (709) 729-0928 or (709) 685-1741.
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